For Windows Users, Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ Might Be Your Next Tablet

For Windows Users Microsofts Surface Might Be Your Next Tablet

If you’re in the market for a new tablet, there’s one more device that should be on your radar — especially if you’re a heavy user of Windows-related products. At an event last night in Hollywood, techgiant Microsoft unveiled Surface, a new family oftablet computers it has developed that operates on Windows software.

“It’s basically a hybrid ultrabook. If a notebook computer with Windows 8 is worth buying, then this certainly is . . . particularly because of its compatibility with Windows software,” says Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for consumer technology, with Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm the NPD Group.

So far, Microsoft has two Surface tablets. One will run on the Windows RT operating system (OS) and an ARM processor and the other on the Windows 8 Pro OS with an Intel processor. The Windows RT tablet weighs about 1.5 pounds, measures about a third of an inch wide and will come in 32 GB and 64 GB versions. The Windows 8 tablet weighs in at just under two pounds, measures a little over half an inch thick and comes in 64 GB and 128 GB versions.

Related: Why You Might Not Upgrade to Windows 8

Two features that are sure to catch the eye of business users: Both models come equipped with a cover that features a built-in keyboard and kickstand. Both also have 10.6-inch displays.

“If you want the ease of use of touch, it’ll be there [with Surface]. If you want a keyboard, it’s there,” Baker says. “And you’ll have the value of a lightweight tablet with all the attributes of a pretty decent processor, storage and Windows.”

Surface tablets are among few devices for which Microsoft has developed the software as well as the hardware. Other examples include the ill-fated Zune music player and Microsoft’s popular Xbox 360 gaming console.

Related: With a Dazzling Display, the New iPad Will Be Attractive for Many Business Owners

Surface for Windows RT is expected to be available with the release of Windows 8, although Microsoft hasn’t set an official date for the release of the OS. The Windows 8 Pro model should be available about 90 days later, Microsoft says.

While Microsoft also hasn’t disclosed prices for the Surface devices, the Windows RT is expected to be priced similarly to other tablets running on ARM processors, or about $500, Baker says. The Windows 8 Pro model should cost about $900, or perhaps closer to $800 by the end of the year, he says.

 

A Woman Entrepreneur’s Advice for Startups

A Woman Entrepreneur's Advice for Startups

Claudia Chan, the founder of the S.H.E. Summit Week, at the kickoff breakfast.
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New York has Internet Week, Fashion Week, and Restaurant Week. Now, there is a week devoted to women. The first S.H.E. (She Helps Empower) Summit Week launched on Monday with a focus squarely on women entrepreneurs.

The week consists of more than 40 events to celebrate women, including business workshops. For example, Women’s Venture Fund is hosting The Art of Good Networking and Build Your Negotiation Skills workshops. Meanwhile, GoGirl Finance is presenting Your Money, Your Life: Know Your Worth, a personal finance workshop.

Entrepreneur Claudia Chan, the brains behind S.H.E. Summit Week, spoke at the kickoff breakfast at skincare company Dermalogica in New York this week. Chan is the former president of Shecky’s Media, an entertainment company that caters to women. She quit her role with Shecky’s to start her own project, ClaudiaChan.com, a website for women that covers lifestyle and business issues.

Related: Entrepreneurs Tap Growing Holistic Niche for Women

“My mission is really to inspire women to dream and do big,” she says. Here, Chan offers her best three tips for women entrepreneurs:

1. Bake purpose into your mission. “As a business owner, really think about: yes, you want to be successful, make money, and create jobs, but you also want to create a greater good for something,” Chan says. “That is what creates the sustainability.” So, be sure to keep a laser-like focus on your mission — and your purpose — as a company, as well as the good that you are creating.

2. Give back. “Be cognizant of the fact that you are a very small percentage of entrepreneurship, and so really support other women along the way,” she says.

3. Take care of yourself. “We have a tendency to just go, go, go and not take care of ourselves,” Chan says, “and then nothing works out.” Take that time for a meditation break or connecting with the people that support you.

 

Facebook Exchange Ads Could Raise Even More Privacy Concerns

Facebook Exchange Could Raise Even More Privacy Concerns

Facebook advertising’s latest makeover could raise new unease about privacy, tracking and snooping by the popular social networking site. Consider: Facebook already has more information on you than your own mother, and now it can serve up ads nearly custom-tailored to you on web pages when you’re off Facebook.

The social networking site last week began testing Facebook Exchange (FBX), which allows advertisers to buy Facebook ads that target its users off-Facebook browsing activity.

Previously, the ads displayed on Facebook would be based on users “Liked” pages, the interests they put in their profile, one’s location, and other info that users chose to share with Facebook, on Facebook. Now, advertisers can serve up Facebook ads to users based on the pages they visit other than Facebook.

Facebook Exchange will let advertisers deliver real-time ads to Facebook users who have received their cookies somewhere else on the Internet. This process delivers relevant ads to Facebook “customers” who have already expressed an interest in a particular service or product they were exploring on another site.

The example used by Facebook is a consumer searching online for a flight to Hawaii who doesn’t pull the trigger and actually book the flight. With Facebook Exchange, a travel website observing that consumer’s actions via cookies, can bid for the opportunity to retarget that user, showing them a related ad on Facebook. It’ll be right there, staring them in the face: “Dude, we can get you to Hilo and back for only $684!”

Related: How to Make Facebook Ads Work for You

The ads, expected to be available in the next week or two, will be sold in a real-time bidding process. They could appeal to small businesses seeking to build brand identity, website traffic, and relationships with customers who may be interested in their products or services.

FBX means users might see more ads for things they actually want to buy, rather than a slew of ads that hold no interest to them. But this new ad vehicle could raise new concerns about privacy, tracking and snooping from an online entity that already has more information on you than your own mother.

Although Facebook isn’t currently combining off-Facebook advertising data with its massive database of personal info, it’s possible that it will in the future, and that concerns many people, including Sarah Downey, an attorney and privacy analyst based in Boston.

“Given the pressure they’re under to profit post-IPO, and given that advertising is 85 percent of their revenue, they’ll need to capitalize on every avenue they have,” said Downey, whose company, Abine, makes the online privacy tool DoNotTrackPlus. “The last thing anyone wants is Facebook gathering even more data about them.”

And Downey’s sentiment appears to be shared. Facebook’s users were recently asked to vote on the company’s new Data Use policy earlier this month, and while 87 percent of voters opposed the new policy — which contains revisions allowing Facebook to launch FBX — not enough users cast votes, making the results “advisory,” not “binding” on the company’s future actions.

For its part, a Facebook spokesperson says by email that there are numerous existing third parties that help advertisers to do the same thing that FBX does, and that Facebook users will still have the same control over the ads they see on the social utility today

 

Robert Scoble: Tech ‘Treps Should Be Crazy Passionate

Robert Scoble Tech Treps Should Be Crazy Passionate

Robert Scoble’s finger is on the pulse of technology. He not only blogs about tech and publicly speaks about it, he follows almost 33,000 people and organizations on Twitter. He’s passionate about social media and emerging technologies — and the entrepreneurs behind them — to the point of obsession.

After serving as a technical evangelist at Microsoft in the early 2000s and later as a vice president of a video podcasting network called PodTech, the popular tech blogger works as a managing director of Rackspace, a cloud-based website hosting company in San Antonio, Texas. We sat down with Scoble to chat about tech startups and the trends that are guiding the industry.

What follows is an edited version of our exchange:

Entrepreneur: What does an aspiring tech entrepreneur need to be successful?
Scoble: Be passionate about your idea to the point of craziness. Unless you’re so passionate about your idea that you’re going to keep doing it until you die, you’re probably not going to develop to full potential.

If you talk to venture capitalists, they look for a few things. One, does the entrepreneur have a team behind him or her that can deliver on the business plan? Adoption is another big thing. Is anyone using the product?

For me, a tech startup needs to be in an interesting area, what I call “battlefields.” If you show me a Windows XP app, I don’t care if it’s the coolest thing you ever thought of. If you show me the app on an iPad, I’ll probably be more interested. The iPad is the future.

Related: Mark Cuban: Outwork and Outlearn Your Competition

Entrepreneur: What’s the future of social media and tech?
Scoble: I think we’re at the beginning of a shift, moving from the conversation age to a more contextual age. Google Glasses, which we’re starting to see prototypes of, informs us what this contextual age means. If I’m walking down the street, they should be able to show me information that I need to know while walking. Not a movie, because I need to walk and navigate. If I start driving a car . . . they should show information about accidents or speed limits. It’s all about context.

Entrepreneur: What inspires you professionally?
Scoble: I love meeting people who see the world in a new way. Sitting down with Tony Hsieh at Zappos and understanding what customer service is all about. Or with Sergey Brin to find out that he’s working on these glasses and self-driving cars, getting a glimpse at how the world might shift because of what he’s doing at Google.

Entrepreneur: How do you stay on top of your game?
Scoble: I’m a social media fanatic. At my desk, I have three big screens in front of me on which I watch Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Gmail, Quora, Techmeme, Salesforce Chatter so I know what my co-workers are talking about — you name it. I sit there and it’s like the world comes to me.

 

‘Failure Is Not Trying’ and Other Fatherly Advice to Entrepreneurs

Father’s Day can be a time to reflect on what for some may be the powerful relationship in our lives. Whether by conscious choice or recognized only in hindsight, a parent’s words of wisdom can become a lifetime touchstone.

Consider these personal reflections from three fascinating entrepreneurs — a tech wunderkind, a self-made woman billionaire, and a man who found a way to make optimism very profitable. Here, they pay homage to their dads.

Failure Is Not Trying and Other Fatherly Advice to Entrepreneurs

Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable: “My dad is good at sticking with stuff and he has a strong work ethic, which is imbued in me. Growing up, he would constantly ask what I was doing and was I achieving anything. Now, he’s the opposite. (Laughs) He’s like, ‘Oh, you should work less. It seems like you work the whole time.’ I say, ‘I do. Well, you told me!’”

More: Pete Cashmore on Persistence

Failure Is Not Trying and Other Fatherly Advice to Entrepreneurs

Sara Blakely, inventor and founder of Spanx: “My dad encouraged us to fail. Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn’t have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

More: Sara Blakely on Resilience

Failure Is Not Trying and Other Fatherly Advice to Entrepreneurs

Bert Jacobs, co-founder of Life is good: “If my dad contributed something big to what we do today, it was the idea that it’s better to build something than to knock something. My dad didn’t tolerate a lot of complaining and giving reasons why something wasn’t going to work. He liked you to get your hands on something and try to help.”

 

9 Things Startups Must Know Before Approaching Lenders

9 Things Startups Must Know Before Approaching Lenders

Aisha Benson, the Vice President and Managing Director of Seedco Financial, talks to entrepreneurs at the America Means Business event in New York City.
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If it seems like you’re still swimming against the tide to find money for your small business, you’re not alone. But there are preparations you can make as a business owner that will increase your chances of getting a loan.

“I want to dispel the myth that there is no money out there for small businesses,” says Aisha Benson, vice president and managing director of Seedco, an alternative finance organization. As part of the America Means Business event in New York this week, Benson spoke to entrepreneurs about what they need to know before approaching a lender for a loan.

Here are quick tips from Benson to position yourself smartly:

1. Write a business plan. Vague ideas scribbled in your notebook won’t impress lenders. For help with a business plan, Benson suggests starting with free templates available online. For examples, check out those available here or on the Small Business Administration’s website. She also recommends contacting your local Small Business Development Center, or make an appointment with a SCORE volunteer. Once you have a plan, update it at least once a year, she says.

Related: How to Craft a Business Plan That’ll Turn Investors’ Heads

2. Organize your paperwork. Lenders have checklists of documents they need, like legal operating agreements, tax returns, and insurance papers. Have hard copies of these important business documents in one place so you can answer questions easily and promptly.

3. Determine how much money you need. Benson says lenders and investors do not like to hear “whatever you want to give me” or broad terms like “working capital,” because that indicates disorganization. Know how much you need and what you are going to do with that money. Also, be ready to explain why you are borrowing it and how you are going to pay it back.

4. Be prepared to put your own skin in the game. Investing your own money into your business inspires confidence in lenders. Be sure you have documentation to prove exactly how much you invested.

Related: 3 Online Tools To Find Funding

5. Know your business numbers. It’s fine to hire an accountant, but when you sit down with a lender you need to know what the line items on your balance sheet and income statement represent.

6. Be transparent. Don’t keep secrets. Lenders will research your financial history. So, even if you don’t disclose debt on your application, the lender will find it. “It only delays the process,” Benson warns.

7. Ask questions about the process. If the lender conducts site visits, schedule one at a time when you are likely to have customers. If your business partner needs to be present, be sure that he or she is there. If your application goes to a credit committee, don’t expect a decision overnight.

8. Read the fine print. In addition to understanding the interest rate, know the “all-in” cost of your loan: Ask about application costs, transaction fees, renewal fees, and any penalty fees.

9. Be yourself. “We want you to be honest and open — that is about character,” Benson says. “The investor is really banking on you.” Especially if you are working with micro lenders or alternative lenders, if they’re impressed with your character, they’re more likely to work with you.

 

Four Rules for Innovative Leadership

Four Rules for Innovative Leadership

Even iconic companies can disappear from the landscape if they aren’t constantly staying ahead of the customer. Remember when Blockbuster franchises dotted strip malls around the country? Yesterday’s leader can become tomorrow’s laggard without innovation and reinvention.

Why can’t some companies reinvent themselves?Management consultant and bestselling business author Jason Jennings finds that the problem often boils down to four issues — attachment, ego, control and complacency. Lead your market by ditching those innovation killers and following these rules:

Forget yesterday’s breadwinner. Every product has a life span–don’t hang onto your Big Idea until it’s on life support, Jennings says in his new book, The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical, Continuous Change (Portfolio/Penguin, 2012). Don’t get attached to a product or way of doing business, he says. Form an advisory committee with several trusted customers who will give you feedback on what your business is doing well and what needs to be improved. Then, act on their suggestions. Visit and read about competitors and successful businesses in other sectors to see how they’re growing and changing and get ideas that you can apply to your own products and services.

Check your ego at the door. Are you always the smartest person in the room? Then get the hell out of there, Jennings advises. When an employee contradicts you or presents different ideas or solutions, listen and praise them for speaking their minds. Make it clear that no one is punished for ideas, whether they work out or not. Give credit, rewards, and recognition to employees who come up with new ideas. A financial incentive and public praise within the company can help them share in the glory of good solutions and inspire others to come forward. Jennings says it’s essential for owners to meet with each employee one time, tell them their ideas are valued and invite them to offer suggestions to the company’s management.

Related: 5 Success Tips from Award-Winning Entrepreneurs

Don’t be a control freak. Entrepreneurs often have a tough time delegating important responsibilities. The consequence is simple: Delegate or die. Hire smart, creative people and give them specific areas of responsibility. Resist the urge to micromanage–if the task or project was done well, let it stand even if it wasn’t done “your way.” New approaches might teach you a thing or two.

Never accept the status quo. “‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is one of the stupidest things ever said in business,” Jennings says. You’re telling your people to leave things alone until there is a problem instead of actively looking for improvement. Instead, train your managers to be open to new ideas at all times. If there is an environment of indifference in embracing ideas or rejecting them before they’ve even been heard, you are losing out on innovation opportunities.

 

What Google’s Panda and Penguin Updates Mean for the Future of SEO

What Googles Panda and Penguin Updates Mean for the Future of SEO

Every time Google rolls out a new algorithm update, article after article is posted online about how the latest changes represent “the end of SEO as we know it.” Here’s a better newsflash: No matter how many of these articles are written or how many adjustmentsGoogle makes, search engine optimization is still alive and well — and will continue to be.

But just because SEO hasn’t been made irrelevant doesn’t mean Google’s Panda and Penguin updates haven’t altered established SEO best practices. Although it’s difficult to say what Google’s next move will be, there are a few lessons we can draw from Google’s latest changes.

Here are my three predictions for how search optimization might look in the months ahead:

1. Overly-optimized sites will continue to be targets.
Based on Google’s stated interest in stopping sites that intentionally manipulate the natural search engine results pages (SERPs) from ranking well, it’s my expectation that we’ll continue to see future algorithm changes designed to punish indicators of over-optimization.

But simply saying “Don’t over-optimize your site,” isn’t realistic, as there’s no way to know which specific optimization metrics Google is able to measure and track. It’s also not possible to determine where the line between effective on-page SEO and over-optimization will be drawn.

Related: Can Too Much SEO Be a Bad Thing?

For now, the best approach appears to be focusing on the quality of your site in terms of visitor interactions, content value and other on-site elements — not over employing complex SEO techniques designed to boost rankings.

2. Visitor engagement matters more than ever.
Another factor that I expect to be important in future ranking algorithm updates is the level of visitor engagement occurring on a site. Since Google promotes the sites that its users will find valuable, one might assume that sites that demonstrate high engagement will be rewarded in future updates.

Again, the specific metrics that the Google can detect and track in order to measure visitor engagement aren’t immediately apparent. As a general rule, a few of the specific items webmasters should focus on are the presence of customer reviews, article comments and social networking follow-through.

Related: 3 Ways to Stop Losing Traffic from Google’s Penguin Update

3. Content quality will grow in importance.
Although Google has made no secret of its desire to reward high-value content with top SERPs rankings, too many webmasters still rely on keyword-optimized or copied-and-pasted content to fill their pages.

Even if your site wasn’t affected by the Panda or Penguin updates, you shouldn’t assume that you’re safe. Google has made every indication that it intends to weed out low value results from the search results. Getting your content quality up now offers one of the best opportunities to protect your site from future changes.

 

How to Sell Your Startup’s Long-Term Vision

How to Sell Your Startups Long-Term Vision

Convincing others to help you pursue your goals is essential to your success as an entrepreneur. An inspiring long-term vision is one of the best ways to keep employees motivated to work hard toward those goals every day. Unlike a strategic business plan, a vision offers a broader picture of how your startup will affect change in the world. It’s your job to come up with a vision in which people feel driven to work for you, invest in your business, or buy your products.

“A vision outlines the values you hold and the more meaningful contribution people can have as they pursue that vision,” explains John Michela, an organizational psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Related: 3 Postures to Boost Productivity Now

Most often, an entrepreneur will outline a vision during a company’s launch phase or when it’s about to pivot. But experts say you should remind employees of the big picture on a regular basis to keep them invested in what you’re trying to accomplish. “A vision gives [employees] an opportunity to be a part of something great,” says Michela. That’s a powerful motivator.

When you present your long-term vision, whether it’s to employees or investors, consider these three elements to make your message really sink in:

1. Be clear. Your vision drives motivation, so be sure to make it crystal clear. Michela offers an example from one of his studies where he tried to convince a group of students to invest in a new bike path. When he just showed pictures of what it would look like in the end, the message was less effective (and raised less money) than when he explained directly that the new bike path would better the environment, reduce global warming, and promote health. In other words, a specific and clear vision was more effective.

2. Be enthusiastic. Even if you hate public speaking, energy and enthusiasm are essential for selling your long-term vision. Draw people in with emotion and imagination — whether you illustrate that by a metaphor, a story, a video, or even just your own excitement. “Use whatever means you can draw upon to make it inspirational,” Michela says.

3. Follow through. People need to trust that your vision is more than just lip service. “You need to align other policies and practices in the organization so that people have the resources, motivation, and rewards to do things differently,” Michela says. For example, Zappos – the popular online footwear and clothing retailer — aligns its entire organization, from company culture to return policies, around customer service. When you present your vision, show people how every aspect of your business will support it.

 

Democratic Lawmakers Question NFIB’s Motives for Small Business

NFIB Claim as The Voice Of Small Business Being Challenged

The National Federation of Independent Business runs with the tagline “The Voice of Small Business,” but a group of Congressional leaders are challenging the group’s interests. This, while the NFIB spearheads the fight to overturn President Obama’s health care reform act, in a case awaiting a Supreme Court ruling.

The co-chairs of the Democratic Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) sent a letter Tuesday to NFIB president Dan Danner, questioning the NFIB’s claim that it represents small business interests. The letter, written by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D., Ariz.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), says donations that the NFIB has received undermine its claims to be a non-partisan small business advocacy group.

In a statement, the lawmakers called into question whether the NFIB “actually represents major corporations and conservative political interests.” In particular, they’re questioning a $3.7 million donation from a group Crossroads GPS whose parent organization cites Republican political strategist Karl Rove as its adviser.

The letter requested details on how that money was spent, and called on the NFIB to disclose all contributions it received over the past three years. The lawmakers also want a list of NFIB members, membership fees and details on any donations those members have made to the organization.

Related: Is the Health Care Tax Credit a Dud?

“The Affordable Care Act, or ‘ObamaCare,’ is a major accomplishment that is already benefiting millions of Americans. The fact that the NFIB has asked the highest court in the land to review the law — and possibly overturn it — means relevant information about participants should be disclosed,” Rep. Ellison said in a statement.

The NFIB does not plan to disclose its donor list, amounts of donations or its member list, according to Jean Card, a spokesperson for the NFIB.

“We are representing our membership well and per their wishes,” Card says. “The underlying charge of this letter is unfounded.”

Card says that the $3.7 million donation from Crossroads GPS was “absolutely not” used to fund the health care lawsuit. The money was used to pay for advertisements promoting issues important to NFIB members in the 2010 Congressional election cycle, she says.

Related: What Small Businesses Care About This Election Year

The implication that the NFIB is not independent and is championing conservative political issues is not true, says Card.

The health care reform act, officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, but most provisions don’t go into effect until 2014. It will requirebusinesses with more than 50 employees, working 30 hours a week on average, provide health-care coverage or pay an annual fine of up to $3,000 per employee (called the employer mandate). The individual mandate will require nearly all individuals to pay for their own health coverage or pay a fee. The NFIB calls the reform “job-killing.”

Conversely, small businesses represented by the Main Street Alliance, a Seattle, Wash.-based advocacy organization, say that the health care reform would benefit their business.